Tourism Business Evaporates As Yosemite Fire Burns On
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And now to one of those people affected by the Rim Fire. Steven Anker, he co-owns the Priest Station Cafe. That's about a 30-minute drive west of Yosemite along highway 120. Normally, the cafe bustles with tourists stopping by for a bite to eat on their way to the park. But since the fire began, he says, business has evaporated.
STEVEN ANKER: Two weeks ago, we had about probably 80 people. So right now we have no one. And we've had three meals all day.
BLOCK: Three customers total.
BLOCK: And this would be high season for you, right?
ANKER: Yes. In an analogy I used earlier, I once drove by a store that sold nothing but Christmas ornaments and I thought, my, what a seasonal business. And for us, it's kind of like that store closing two weeks before Christmas. It's an enormously important time for us but it is out of our hands. And also, you know, a lot of people have been affected way worse than us.
We still have our property. We still have our lives. Everyone has their lives. I've had friends who've lost the houses they grew up in. It's been bad for everyone.
BLOCK: How far is the fire from you?
ANKER: As the crow flies, it was about three miles from us.
BLOCK: Three miles.
ANKER: But now, it's headed northeast, you know, so everything around us that could burn has burned, we hope.
BLOCK: Is it smoky where you are?
ANKER: Yes. It's Los Angeles on a very bad day. And usually we come to the mountains for the crisp, clean air.
BLOCK: And can you feel it when you're breathing?
ANKER: Yeah, it's awful. And it varies. Sometimes the wind blows it out and it will be clear in the afternoon, but yesterday it was just like standing a few feet from a fire. It was very bad.
BLOCK: And have you been through a fire like this before?
ANKER: Many times.
BLOCK: Do you ever get used to it?
ANKER: Well, no, you don't get used to it. But the reason why we have these gargantuan fires is because of bad land management and, you know, global warming. There are a lot of issues at work here and this - you know, there should be control burns around here and those fires should be a small paragraph in the local paper. Instead, it's become this enormous, you know. But California will burn, and under what circumstances do you want it to burn?
BLOCK: I wonder if you know some of the folks who are out there fighting this fire.
ANKER: I know the firemen. Everyone in the community knows someone who's on the lines. Everyone.
BLOCK: You've got to be - I'm sure everyone's concerned about their safety as they're out there.
ANKER: Yeah, incredibly. There's an enormous show of outpouring of support for the firefighters. There are signs up everywhere. They're doing an amazing job and considering how big that fire was, it's amazing that there was not a lot more damage to structure. But right now, the biggest victim in all this has been the forest.
BLOCK: Well, Mr. Anker, good luck to you. All the best.
ANKER: Thank you.
BLOCK: Steven Anker co-owns the Priest Station Cafe in Big Oak Flat, California, about 30 minutes west of Yosemite. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.